Monday, September 1, 2014

My first-ever interview on a Google Hangout On Air!!

I have a background in radio, so I've hosted other people on my show, but this'll be the first time I've ever been a guest on someone ELSE's show!

John Jurkiewicz is a life/business/career consultant from rural Kentucky. He's a terrific guy, very supportive, and has made me laugh my ass off through this whole process. He'll be interviewing me about the ups and downs of my employee-to-entrepreneur journey to date.

If you'd like to "listen in", click below to join Google Plus (if you haven't already), and mark your calendars for Wednesday evening at 7 PM MST.

(Okay, now, having told you all about this, I'm REALLY nervous...I hope I don't pee my pants or puke or do anything stupid...)

Click here to do whatcha gotta do to listen in! If you need help with this process, gimme a shout.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Research on Word-of-Mouth Marketing

We all know that social media is roaring to the forefront of word-of-mouth marketing. But how does one gain a good reputation online?

One way is by offering stellar customer service. New studies are finding that over 70% of social networking with businesses revolve around customer service. People are asking questions and seeking advice via social media, and they want solutions to their problems in real time, on social media. Nobody wants to wade through automated phone systems, wait on hold, or be fobbed off on the appropriate department for problem-solving, and most people want responses to their tweets or posts within an hour!

Social media has become the new forum for customer service.

Here's more from Social Media Examiner:


By Kiera Stein

Do you want people to tell their friends about your business?

Are you getting positive word of mouth?

New research shows that word-of-mouth marketing has grown exponentially on social media.

In this article you’ll discover three ways you can encourage customers to tell their friends about you.

#1: Customer Service Tips the Scales analyzed 1 billion brand mentions in a recent study. What they found is somewhat surprising: 76% of brand mentions on the web and social media are neither positive nor negative.

What does this mean? On social media, neutral mentions blend into the background. When 76% of brand mentions are basically ignored, the positive and negative mentions stand out.

So how can you turn a neutral into a positive? One way is to provide excellent customer service. Use your website and other platforms to let customers know they can find you on social media when they have customer service needs.

#2: Easy Sharing Encourages Social Proof

Are you more likely to go to a new restaurant because the restaurant claims it has good food or because a trusted friend says it’s worth trying? There’s an implicit level of trust in any friendship that can’t be replicated between brand and consumer—this extends to purchasing behavior.

Conversations with friends and family are the most trusted source of information for consumers—and brands know it. eMarketer reports that brands view social sharing as the most effective use of social media.

According to research firm eMarketer, 68% of U.S. social media users ages 18-34 and 53% of those ages 35-44 say they are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media updates.

When your customers share positive opinions and experiences on social media, it increases your credibility among potential customers in a way you, as a business, can’t. Social proof is a clear motivator.

Read the complete article here

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Attentive Listening and Empathy Maps: Finding Out Where Your Customers Hurt

Preacher or Salesman? Dunno, but he looks damned good in orange!
photo credit: 
MissTessmacher via photopin cc
I had the privilege to attend my first-ever Google Hangout with some terrific folks on Saturday, notably the author of this blog and this Crowdfunding guru.

The topic of the Hangout proved to be attentive listening -- and how we, as marketers, need to do more of it.

One tends not to think of marketers as being particularly empathetic. Psychotherapists, priests, ministers, and even parents have a much higher rating on the "empathy meter" in most peoples' minds than marketers.

This perception is not unjustified; we don't pretend to be doing anything more altruistic than figuring out ways to get people to buy our stuff, or our clients's stuff if we're working for someone else. We work for money, pure and simple.

Never mind that priests, therapists, and ministers all work for money, too. And not all parents are particularly empathetic. But that's beside the point.

We, as marketers and businesspeople, must be empathetic, because empathy sells.

Our ability to get inside our customers' heads and figure out what they want and need affects our bottom line We need to figure out what hurts, what itches. Then we need to figure out how to relieve that hurt or itch and sell the remedy to them. That's our job.

We can't do this without listening to what our customers have to say.

Listening, by its very nature, makes us very empathetic. Without empathy, we end up sounding like the stereotypical used car salesman who can't leave his job at work. Pretty soon, people start avoiding him, stop inviting him over for dinner...and ultimately stop buying his cars.

Attentive listening both requires and engenders empathy.

So we marketers need to work on talking less and listening more. Not an easy task for most of us when we are passionate about what we are selling.

Empathy maps are one way to help us "listen to" our customers' minds. Below is a great article from Copyblogger on empathy maps.

What do YOUR customers want and need? What are their pains and itches? How do you offer them relief?

~ Catharine


By Demian Farnworth

Jack Ungulate is a strange bird.

When he drinks beer, he licks his index and middle finger, swipes the bottle opening, and then pauses, with the bottle raised to his mouth, before turning it upside down.

Each time, every time.

He also has a routine with his steel-toe boots. The left one must go on first, then the right. But he takes them off in reverse.

And then there’s his ritual when buying large ticket items like a car: he sends his wife to the lot while he sits in the garage, waiting for her to call.

When people talk to him about saving for his children’s college fund, he quickly cuts them off to inform them there is no fund because he’d prefer to cultivate a sense of ownership by encouraging them to pay their own way through school.

He enjoys the scowls that appear on their faces.

As he methodically replaces a defective steam gauge on a heating system, he thinks about his father and why they never talk. Then he contemplates how he’s going to break it to his own son that he won’t be able to make it to his kayak competition that evening because he has to cover a co-worker’s night shift.

The overtime, however, will go towards their trip to Cancun in April. That should ease the sting.

Clearly, Jack is not so much strange as he is just complex. Like most humans. And all of your customers.

Read the full article here.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Password Life Hack: How This Man Changed His Life

Okay, so this isn't exactly an online marketing tip, but it was just so darn cool I couldn't resist sharing it with you.

Talk about finding everyday opportunities to make things better!

I think I'll go and change all of my passwords now ... how about you?

Mauricio Estrella
The author, who changed his password...and his life.
By Mauricio Estrella
As the input field with the pulsating cursor was waiting for me to type a password — something I’d use many times during every day — I remembered a tip I heard from my former boss.
And I decided: I’m gonna use a password to change my life.
It was obvious that I couldn’t focus on getting things done with my current lifestyle and mood. Of course, there were clear indicators of what I needed to do — or what I had to achieve — in order to regain control of my life, but we often don’t pay attention to these clues.

My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn’t let myself be victim of my recent break up, and that I’m strong enough to do something about it. 
My password became: “Forgive@h3r”
Read the full article here

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Can We Really Trust Offshore SEO?

In my opinion, opting for offshore/cheap anything is a bad idea. It sends a message to your customers that:

1. You're cheap
2. You're struggling for money
3. You're trying to maximize your profits by exploiting slave labor.

It's ... well, it's just bad juju.

Besides, have you SEEN the english in some of these SEO spam messages? Do you really think that the English in behind-the-scenes SEO is going to be any better than the English in the spam?

Do you want to come across to your customers as prime rib or McDonald's?

Obviously, this is just my not-so-humble opinion. But what do YOU think?

~ Catharine

Should you outsource your SEO offshore?
If you are considering outsourcing SEO then where to go will be one of the considerations. With all of the email spam for low cost SEO you may be tempted to send your SEO work to a low cost offshore resource. However before you risk your business in the hands of unknown offshore companies you should seriously consider all of the options. 

At Red Alien we receive emails daily from so called ‘SEO’ offshore teams and companies wanting to partner with us or offering to take SEO work off our hands for small fees. With SEO being comprised of such an array of complex procedures many of which draw a fall into the realms of black hat SEO would you be confident with such an important service being managed from thousands of miles away from overworked, low paid individuals? We wouldn’t!

It is very difficult to tell who are the legit companies amongst the pirates out there especially when your only communication is a yahoo/gmail email and rarely even a company name. Responding to this type of email spam nearly always leads to disappointment.

By Zak Jacobs
Read the complete article here:

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Word-Of-Mouth Marketing: The Shocking Truth and What to Do About It (Part Three:The 11 Elements of a Comprehensive Social Marketing Strategy)

Image from Symbleme Services Online 

Okay, okay, you’ve convinced me. I need to join the 21st century and market my business on social media. Now what?

Well, before we dive into what social marketing IS, let's look at what social marketing ISN'T.

1. Sitting down in front of Facebook a couple of times a month or whenever you feel like it, maybe slapping on a picture, and telling people to buy your stuff.

They have a word for this kind of behavior.

It's called invisible.

If, on the other hand, you sit in front of Facebook and do this a lot -- like, daily, or even many times a day...

It's called spamming.

This is akin to walking up to a complete stranger and saying, "Hi, there! You don't know me, but I sell this stuff and I want you to buy it."

What happens?

Pretty soon everybody starts to avoid you. On social media, they unfriend you, hide your posts, or ignore you.

Nobody wants to hear you brag about yourself all the time, and nobody shares or likes spam on social media. If your marketing -- whether it's online or traditional word-of-mouth -- doesn't include conversations about the needs and wants of your client or customer, or cool things that your customers like reading about, it's gonna flop.

2. Social marketing isn't a sprint; it's a marathon.

Did clients and customers start lining up outside your door the first time you handed someone your business card? Of course not!

You don't train for a marathon by running a few miles a couple of times, and you're not going to see overwhelming results from a week, a month, or even six months of social marketing. Just like traditional marketing, it's going to take consistency and time to begin to see the results of your efforts. Social marketing is an investment in the future of your company, not a quick fix for when you need some fast cash.

Social Marketing 101: Everything You Need To Know to Start Your Social Media Marketing Campaign

There’s a surprising amount of stuff to think about when it comes to social marketing, so let's start by taking a look at this infographic from, and then go over the 11 things it takes to implement a comprehensive strategy.

Infographic courtesy of Maximize Your Social
1. Branding

Branding is sort of like training Pavlov's dog. Your objective is to train your market to respond to your brand in a certain way (hopefully not by salivating, unless you are marketing ice cream!) through consistency, repetition, and reward.

Think about Nike. When you see the Nike symbol, you automatically associate it with certain things, like their slogan, “Just Do It”; athletic shoes; sports; perhaps Olympic athletes they’ve sponsored.

In the social world, branding includes your logo, your colors, the colors of your industry, and your online “voice” or presence.

Some social posts are chatty and informal:
“OMG, you are never going to BELIEVE what SewsALot has been up to for their back-to-school specials! Check out these adorable jumpers, on sale for $22 each!”

Some are more serious:
“Only 1.7% of employers deal with a workplace bully in a satisfactory way. It’s time to stamp out workplace bullying once and for all. Call 1-800-XXX-XXXX to add your voice to the millions of others who are fighting workplace bullying.”

Whether you are doing your own social media marketing as the business owner or have hired someone to help you with it, it's important to make sure that your online “voice” is consistent across all of your social media channels.

2. Content

This goes back to offering your customers useful information on social media instead of just spamming them with “buy my stuff” posts. Good content offers tips, starts conversations, provokes thought, and could even change lives. Content should include text and a photo at the very least, but videos, infographics, presentations, quizzes, surveys … all of these things are good for getting those likes and shares – those “social signals” -- that Google loves.

By the way, social media also includes blogging, and blogging is a great way to get longer content, such as the Howto you're currently reading, out there.

3. Curation

“Curation” is a fancy word for sharing content from an authority with your customers. For instance, if you are a dog trainer and you happen to see a great article from Victoria Stillwell or Cesar Millan, if you share that article with your followers, you’re curating it.

Curating is a fantastic way of offering your followers great information from an expert, and it makes you look good, too, because it shows that you care about keeping up with the best practices in your field, and your customers will benefit from your continued learning.

At first, you might think, "Why on earth would I swipe someone else's content? Wouldn't that just make them mad?

Actually, no. Experts love it when we share what they have to say, as long as we give them the credit! They benefit just as much as we do from the exposure, shares, and backlinks.

On the other hand, nothing will piss an expert -- or Google! -- off more quickly than us ripping off their stuff and passing it off as our own. Doing this will cost us our first-page status on Google quicker than you can say "I'm a loser". 

4. Channels

There are more than 50 social networks having at least 10 million members each. Most companies choose to focus on the biggies: Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. But which channels you use depends on the nature of your business and where your customers like to hang out.

Keep in mind that each channel has its own peculiarities with regards to formatting, what they will and won’t allow you to do, when and how many posts are seen, how graphics show up, and so on. Some play nicely with other software tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, some (notably Facebook) don’t.

5. Frequency

More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to the frequency of social media posts.

For instance, only 1-5% of your fans on Facebook will even see your posts in the first place, and you’ll have the best chance of reaching that 1-5% between 6-8 AM in your time zone. 

Twitter, on the other hand, seems to tolerate more frequent posts. I’ve even heard of companies that tweeted every 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. That works out to 96 tweets a day! So you’ll need to spend some time figuring out exactly when and how often your posts are reaching your audience most effectively.

6. Engagement

There are two kinds of engagement: proactive and reactive (or responsive) engagement.

The first part of proactive engagement sort of goes along with content: it’s scanning blogs, social media feeds, and news feeds, looking for interesting tidbits to share with your customers. For instance, even though it had nothing to do with our upcoming concerts, I recently posted a video of a little girl singing with her daddy on my band’s Facebook page. Our fans loved it, and that post got a whole bunch of likes, shares, and comments. Mission accomplished.

The second part of proactive engagement is kind of like making an outgoing phone call to share news and updates with your fans, only instead of just calling one person, you’re calling everybody at once. You might want to tell everybody about a sale you’re having, or a special offer you’re promoting, or celebrate someone’s birthday, or you might have a quiz or survey for them to fill out.

7. Listening

Listening, or reactive engagement – I actually prefer the term “responsive engagement” – is sort of like answering incoming phone calls. Sometimes people just call you up to say hello and see how you’re doing. Sometimes they call to ask a question. Sometimes – okay, a lot of times – they call up to complain. The same thing happens on social media.

Here’s a couple of stats that demonstrate the importance of keeping track of what’s going on in your social media world:

67% of 23,000 consumers surveyed said they had used a company’s social media site for customer service.
A recent study showed 71% of customers who complained via Twitter were not contacted by the company.

Do you have to respond to every like, share, or favorite? No … but it doesn’t take much time. And it doesn’t hurt to simply say “thank you” for the cyber-love.

8. Campaign

Campaigns are about getting to know your followers, and they’re great social signal generators! People love quizzes and surveys; 39% of participants in a “pick your favorite” ad campaign post share it with their friends.

Once again, each social media channel has its own peculiarities when it comes to campaigns, so you’ll need to do some experimenting to find out what works.

9. Influencers

Influencers know their industry, and they are experts on how to engage with their followers.  They are the ones with gazillions of likes, favorites, and shares on each of their posts. A good example of an influencer on Facebook is George Takei. Note that most of George's posts have nothing to do with his books or movies; they're funny and cool pictures that people love and share.

Even though it’s not easy figuring out who the influencers are in your industry -- never mind how to get their attention so that they’ll help you spread your message -- it’s worth seeking them out and developing online relationships with them.  

10. Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors are the people who love you: loyal customers, current employees, company alumni … these are the people who are your evangelists. They’re taking your brand name out into the world and giving you glowing reviews. Remember this statistic? 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing! Your brand ambassadors deserve to be richly rewarded. Reach out to them on social media by offering employee and loyalty discounts or other goodies for their hard work!

11. Crisis Management

Social media is not unlike live radio or TV, and occasionally someone “broadcasts” a head-slapping faux pas that needs to be dealt with professionally in order to avoid utter decimation of the company image. A great example is the lewd photo that was accidentally Tweeted to a US Airways customer on the company’s official Twitter page, an event that made headlines in April 2014. Fortunately, US Airways dealt with this social media crisis in the best way possible, and the whole thing blew over quickly with a minimum of kerfuffle. 

Oh, man, that looks like a lot of work! How long does it take to do all this stuff?

That’s a great question, and you’re right, it IS a lot of work to do social media right! In a perfect world, you as the business owner, would do your own social networking. This would allow your online fans to get to know you and interact with you personally, and it builds trust.

Not only does creating or looking for good content take time, but interacting with followers takes time, researching your customers' interests takes time, tailoring posts for each channel takes time, monitoring your analytics takes time, figuring out who your influencers and brand ambassadors are takes time, coming up with campaigns takes time…

And the one thing that most small business owners lack most is time.

Once it is established, a decent social networking strategy takes AT LEAST two hours to maintain, every single day; more if you’re writing your own content, which can average up to 20 hours for a 3,000-word article.

The other thing that most small business owners don’t have is the energy to take the learning curve on all of this. In fact, many business owners would rather die than deal with social media! When you’re doing everything from managing employees and ordering inventory to bookkeeping and changing light bulbs, chances are the LAST thing on the planet you want to do is worry about your online marketing strategy.

This is where hiring a decent online marketer will save the day -- and your sanity. It’s their job to take all of this off your plate and free you up to focus on what you do best: running your business. And now you have a guide to help you in your search for a social marketer who is worth their salt.

If you found this guide helpful, please share it with someone else who might need it!

Go Back: Part Two, Word-of-Mouth on Steroids
Go Back: Part One, Traditional Word-of-Mouth

Ready to for some help with your online marketing? 

Contact Us:

Catharine Symblème, Business Evangelist
315 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Here's your opportunity to help Symblème Services Online with OUR social signals -- and get online marketing suggestions on your favorite social media newsfeed! Like us on Facebook; Follow us on Twitter, or Follow us on Google Plus. 

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Word-Of-Mouth Marketing: The Shocking Truth and What to Do About It (Part Two: Word-of-Mouth on Steroids)

So, Why the Heck is Social Media Such A Big Freakin' Deal, Anyway?

Word-Of-Mouth Marketing On Steroids

"Social media marketing has taken your father’s word of mouth campaigns and put them on steroids.” ~ Karl Walinskas 

Word-of-mouth, or what the pros call “relationship marketing” is still the best way to get new customers.  92% of people trust recommendations from people they know, more than all other forms of marketing. 77% of them are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family.

But here’s the kicker: 
  • 81% of U.S. online consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ SOCIAL MEDIA posts
  • 85% of fans of businesses ON FACEBOOK recommend those companies to others.
  • 43% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it on SOCIAL MEDIA. 
Word-of-mouth has now migrated to social media!

Let’s Talk About Millennials for a minute 

Millennials – those 18-34-year-olds who drive us old farts up the wall by spending so much of their time talking and texting on their smart phones and other gadgets – now make up a quarter of the U.S. population, and they are able to spend somewhere between 200 billion and 1.3 trillion dollars on your products and services.

From the Huffington Post:
  • They don’t read paper newspapers to see the ads.
  • They don’t watch television commercials.
  • They are oblivious to billboards, telemarketers, postcards, and any other type of traditional marketing.
  • 51% of them learn about brands on Facebook. 
  • 63% stay updated on brands through social networks.
  • 84% report that user generated content (blog posts, articles, etc.) on company websites at least somewhat influences what they buy
And if that weren't enough to convince you to take social media seriously, remember that website discussion we had in Part One?

The Other Reason Social Media is a Big Deal: Your Website Rankings

A “social signal” is a Facebook Like or a Twitter Favorite or other social media interaction. Google has begun taking social signals very seriously when it comes to where your website shows up in searches, because, as Ryan Biddulph commented here, "Social signals are social proof, or testimonials, or reviews, and when you’re receiving endorsements via social, your site should move up on search." 

Let’s take a look at this graph for a minute:

Chart from

Remember in Part One, I pointed out that Jim’s Custom Diesel appeared on the first page of a Google search as a Google Plus page?

Even though Google Plus is new and small site compared to the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, Google -- naturally -- wants wants to promote its own products. As a result, Google gives more weight to social signals from Google Plus than it does Facebook or any other social networking site.

By now, you should be "getting it" that effective word-of-mouth marketing in the Information Age hinges on three big things: 

1. Traditional word-of-mouth and face-to-face networking
2. A website that makes Google happy so that it puts you on the first page of keyword searches, and
3. Social media engagement

Read On! Part Three: The 11 Elements of a Comprehensive Social Marketing Strategy
Back to Part One: Traditional Word-of-Mouth Marketing

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